Morgan County, West Virginia had 27 overdose deaths from 2011 to 2015.
That’s according to the Appalachian Overdose Death Mapping Tool released yesterday by the Appalachian Regional Commission and NORC at the University of Chicago.
Outside of coal country, Berkeley County and Morgan County had the highest overdose death rates in West Virginia.
Morgan County’s death rate was 51.1 overdose deaths per year per 100,000 population. That is twice the national overdose death rate of 20.6 deaths per year per 100,000 population and more than 50 percent higher than the Appalachian death rate of 30.6 overdose deaths per year per 100,000.
Berkeley County’s death rate was 52.2 overdose deaths per year per 100,000 population. Berkeley County suffered 189 overdose deaths in the five years from 2011 to 2015.
Michael Meit, co-director of the NORC Walsh Center for Rural Analysis, said that while the study covered only the years 2011 to 2015, “the 2016 numbers eclipse 2015.”
A study from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that in 2016, West Virginia has the nation’s worst opioid overdose rate of 43.4 deaths per year per 100,000.
“Central Appalachia, New Hampshire and New Mexico are the hot spots nationally for overdose deaths,” Meit said.
The Appalachian Overdose Mapping Tool is a data visualization tool illustrating the impact of the opioid epidemic in the Appalachian Region and its relation to socioeconomic factors such as unemployment, poverty, education, and disability.
The tool integrates overdose mortality rates for each Appalachian county with data on unemployment, poverty, and disability, as well as other socioeconomic variables.
Users can compare county-level information with regional and national data and see changes in the data between 2006–2010 and 2011–2015.
The mapping tool can also generate fact sheets to assist in community planning and response efforts.
In August 2017, NORC’s Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis, which also participated in developing the mapping tool, produced a report for ARC titled Appalachian Diseases of Despair which reveals the extent of mortality rates in Appalachia due to alcoholic liver disease, overdose, and suicide.
The study found that in 2015, overdose-related mortality rates for Appalachia’s 25-44-year-old age group – those in their prime working years – were more than 70 percent higher than for the same age group in the country’s non-Appalachian areas.